Pence, Gregory E. 1948-

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PENCE, Gregory E. 1948-


Born January 17, 1948, in Washington, DC. Education: College of William and Mary, M.A., 1970; New York University, Ph.D., 1974.


Office—Philosophy, UAB, 900 13th Street S., Birmingham, AL 35294-1260. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Alabama, Birmingham, professor of philosophy, 1976—, professor of medical ethics, 1977—. Has appeared on television programs, including Talk Back Live, The Point, The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel, and Wolf Blitzer's Washington. Has spoken at dozens of universities and has appeared on National Public Radio (NPR) and CNN.


Ingalls Award for Best Teaching, University of Alabama, 1994.


Ethical Options in Medicine, Medical Economics Co. (Oradell, NJ), 1980.

Classic Cases in Medical Ethics: Accounts of Cases That Have Shaped Medical Ethics, with Philosophical, Legal, and Historical Backgrounds, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 1990, 4th edition, 2003.

(With Lynn Stephens) Seven Dilemmas in World Religion, Paragon House (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor) Classic Works in Medical Ethics: Core Philosophical Readings, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 1998.

(Editor) Flesh of My Flesh: The Ethics of Cloning Humans: A Reader, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1998.

Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1998.

A Dictionary of Common Philosophical Terms, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 2000.

Re-creating Medicine: Ethical Issues at the Frontiers of Medicine, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2000.

(Editor) The Ethics of Food: A Reader for the Twenty-First Century, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2002.

Brave New Bioethics, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2002.

Designer Food: Mutant Harvest or Breadbasket of the World?, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2002.

Cloning after Dolly: Who's Still Afraid of Human Cloning?, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including Newsweek, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal.


For nearly thirty years, ethicist Gregory E. Pence has been guiding readers through the minefields of modern medicine, covering deeply controversial issues such as mandatory AIDS testing, animal testing, and euthanasia. Drawing on science, philosophy, religion, and the law, Pence has provided guidelines for thinking through some of the thorniest issues in medical treatment. He has also come down in favor of both bioengineered food and human cloning, putting him at the forefront of these emotionally charged controversies. In 2001, Pence testified before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation in Congress, "Should attempts to clone humans be a federal crime?"

Ethical Options in Medicine takes a case-by-case approach, providing the details of a medical dilemma and then a series of philosophical approaches that address the issues, followed by a discussion of which of these approaches Pence accepts and which he rejects. Pence also provides an ideal medical code that he hopes will prove useful to physicians. "This book is highly recommended for doctors, who should find the time to read it," concluded Science Books and Films reviewer John Hathaway.

Some ten years later, Pence followed up with Classic Cases in Medical Ethics: Accounts of Cases That Have Shaped Medical Ethics, with Philosophical, Legal, and Historical Backgrounds. Through such examples as the Quinlan case, the case of Nancy Cruzan, and the arrest of Jack Kevorkian, Pence again provides help in sorting out the issues in euthanasia, as well in-vitro fertilization and fetal tissue research. Jonathan D. Moreno, reviewing the book in the Hastings Center Report, found that "In at least one respect this volume is a tour de force, for Pence has assembled and mastered a wealth of detail. In spite of all the specifics I found rather few interpretations to quibble about. When he does falter … it is rare indeed and not grave enough to detract from the main point." The book, which has become a standard text in medical ethics, went into a fourth edition in 2003, with a fifth edition planned.

Pence has also collected a number of authoritative texts for physicians in Classic Works in Medical Ethics: Core Philosophical Readings. In addition to an introductory history of Western morality, Pence provides writings from notable authorities, such as James Rachels, Judith Jarvis Thomson, and Peter Singer, in twelve overarching areas, including abortion, suicide, and animal rights. While noting some problems in the book's organizational structure, Martin Harvey concluded in an American Philosophical Association newsletter, "It provides a thorough philosophical and readily accessible introduction to the primary ethical issues which have confronted physicians, as well as the public at large, over the past forty years."

Pence has often drawn on religious teachings to elucidate his ethical position. In Seven Dilemmas in World Religion, coauthored with Lynn Stephens, he approaches the question of what makes the major world religions differ by focusing on a central dilemma that each religion confronts. For Judaism, it is the dilemma of a universalistic religion with an exclusivist idea of a chosen people. For Christianity, it is the mystery of Jesus' combined humanity and divinity. And for Islam, it is the contrast between human freedom and the absolute sovereignty of Allah. Other dilemmas confront Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Charles W. Swain, in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies wrote, "Perhaps inevitably, the values of 'tolerance' and 'curiosity,' so central to comparative study of religion, create an attitude of disengagement that may be off-putting to those for whom these are existential, life-and-death issues."

Despite this diversion into comparative religion, Pence has been primarily a medical ethicist, and in two highly charged areas, human cloning and bioengineered food, Pence has become a leading voice. In Flesh of My Flesh: The Ethics of Human Cloning, Pence brings together writings from Stephen Jay Gould, James D. Watson, and others in "a smorgasbord of hearty food for thought," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? Pence provides his own arguments in favor of cloning, in the face of nearly universal opposition to the very idea. Pence is particularly critical of the role of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, which has come out strongly against the idea, arguing that the Commission succumbed to hysteria rather than provide a reasoned forum for debate or any true leadership on the issue. For Pence, fears of assembly-line clones identical to their parents neglected some basic facts, such as the impact of environment, the role of autonomous women, and the unfounded fears that once surrounded in-vitro fertilization. "Pence offers a rational, well-tempered voice in a discussion that too often is driven by emotion and fears fueled by science fiction.… Those strongly opposed to human cloning are, unfortunately, unlikely to be persuaded by Pence's arguments in favor of its permissibility and regulation. Nevertheless, even those opposed on religious grounds, as well as those who wish to engage religious arguments on the topic (and on assisted reproduction generally), may benefit from Pence's discussion of classic religious positions on God's will and reproduction without sex," commented Lisa S. Parker in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). One such unconvinced critic was First Things contributor Jorge Garcia, who found the book "filled with arguments that are shallow, unfair, and foolish" as well as "showing contempt for Catholic and Protestant alike" and doing "little to seriously engage the major objections to human cloning." In contrast, Skeptical Inquirer contributor Terence Hines claimed the book "is the best thing I've seen written about cloning since the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep in 1997. The vast majority of post-Dolly writing on cloning, especially in the nonscientific press, has been near-hysterical, fear-mongering drivel.… Gregory Pence … destroys such arguments against human cloning."

Pence has also taken on the issue of genetic manipulation of food. In Designer Food: Mutant Harvest or Breadbasket of the World?, "Pence attempts to cut through the propaganda to determine whether there are real and valid reasons to avoid consuming genetically altered foods," explained Booklist reviewer Mark Knoblauch. For proponents, these disease-resistant, insect-repellent foods are vital to feeding a still-growing world population. For critics, consumers are being used as guinea pigs in an experiment that even the food designers do not really understand. "Although Pence agrees that more research and sound policy is important, he has little patience for the motives of environmentalists, antitechnology activists, and proponents of organic farming," noted Library Journal contributor Irwin Weintraub. For Choice reviewer M. Kroger, "To sort facts from hype, debaters need to be informed, and this book is the best to date for that purpose."



Booklist, March 15, 2002, Mark Knobloch, review of Designer Food: Mutant Harvest or Breadbasket of the World?, p. 1194.

Choice, July-August, 2002, M. Kroger, review of Designer Food, p. 1985.

First Things, March, 1999, Jorge Garcia, review of Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?, p. 54. Hastings Center Report, September-October, 1991, Jonathan D. Moreno, review of Classic Cases in Medical Ethics: Accounts of Cases That Have Shaped Medical Ethics, with Philosophical, Legal, and Historical Backgrounds, p. 42.

Journal of Ecumenical Studies, spring, 1996, Charles W. Swain, review of Seven Dilemmas in World Religion, pp. 282-283.

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), November 25, 1998, Lisa Parker, review of Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?, p. 1798.

Library Journal, October 1, 1994, Henry Carrigan, review of Seven Dilemmas in World Religion, p. 86; May 1, 2002, Irwin Weintraub, review of Designer Food, p. 129.

Nursing Ethics, 2001, Brian D. Mohr, review of Classic Cases in Medical Ethics, p. 291.

Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1998, review of Flesh of My Flesh, p. 48.

Religious Studies Review, April, 1992, Joel Jay Finer, review of Classic Cases in Medical Ethics, p. 135.

Science Books and Films, September, 1981, John Hathaway, review of Ethical Options in Medicine, p. 4.

Skeptical Inquirer, November, 1999, Terence Hines, "Clear Thinking about Human Cloning," p. 57.


American Philosophical Association, (July 10, 2003), Martin Harvey, review of Classic Works in Medical Ethics.

Human Cloning Foundation, (June 2, 2004), discussion of Pence's work, as well as reviews of his books.

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Pence, Gregory E. 1948-

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